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Southwold: Emotional service pays tribute to Great Flood of 1953 victims

PUBLISHED: 22:17 30 January 2013 | UPDATED: 22:31 30 January 2013

Southwold Mayor Michael Ladd gives a reading during the service which commemorated the five people who died in Southwold during the Great Flood of 1953.

Southwold Mayor Michael Ladd gives a reading during the service which commemorated the five people who died in Southwold during the Great Flood of 1953.

Archant

SURVIVORS gave poignant and vivid stories in an emotional service to commemorate the five people who died in Southwold in the Great Flood of 1953 tonight.

The 60th anniversary service, held at St Edmunds church, remembered the five residents in low-lying Ferry Road who lost their lives in one of the UK’s worst peacetime disasters.

Sixty years ago tomorrow, the Great Flood battered the east coast of England as high spring tides, deep atmospheric low pressure and exceptionally strong northerly gales led to sea water surging over coastal defences and sweeping two miles inland.

Around 100 members of the community attended to share their memories of that fateful night as survivors gave moving speeches and candles were lit in memory for each of the five people who died.

Southwold mayor Michael Ladd said: “It was a great service with poignant and emotional stories told.

“It is important to hold these events to look back on the history of the town. It was one of the biggest – if not the biggest – disasters that has hit Southwold.

“But it was a bit eerie because the winds were quite strong and you could hear the wind howling around the church.

“It was almost as if Mother Nature was telling us she was still a force to be reckoned with.”

During the evening, Southwold town councillor Susan Doy told how a weekly dance she attended unusually got moved from the upstairs of Southwold pier on the night of the Great Flood, potentially saving dozens of lives.

Matthew Horwood, aged just one and in hospital at London at the time, told how his family had to escape onto the roof of their house after it had been knocked back 400 yards.

His mum and dad were rescued by a passer-by in a boat – moments before their house sunk.

On behalf of Frank Upcraft, Professor Hugh Williamson told how Mr Upcraft’s father’s boat completely vanished into the sea – only for a piece of the boat to reappear 27 years later, washed up on the beach with his father’s name on.

Former St Felix student Penelope Bartlett also recounted how the windows rattled and waking up the next morning to discover water had reached the school’s grounds.

An estimated 46,000 farm animals also perished in the flood, many of them on the marshes around Southwold.

Simon Pitcher, team rector of Sole Bay ministry team who helped stage the event, said: “It was a great service that was well-attended.

“Survivors shared their memories of that night and thanked those who were brave and risked their lives by helping others that night.”

Meanwhile, the Princess Royal will attend a special service at Chelmsford Cathedral to mark the anniversary on Thursday.

Acts of remembrance are being held up and down the Suffolk Coast this week to commemorate the Great Flood of January 31, 1953 which claimed over 50 lives in Suffolk and 307 nationwide.

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